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Survivor of Ship Sinking Sends Letter to Family

In recognition of today’s date, April 15, a Bay Area sailor forwarded the following letter, written by his great-aunt:

My dear Mother, Father, and all, –

You will be pleased to know that I am safe on the Carpathia, after a ‘’thrilling yet safe experience.’’ But I am very much afraid all the men have lost their lives; they were very brave. It was the greatest surprise to everyone. We were all in bed, and told to remain there, as it was only an ‘’Iceberg,’’ so we were only in our night attire.

Everything is lost, money, pictures, and all. We were launched in the lifeboats at 1.15 a.m. and picked up at 6.15. The Titanic was cut in two and was sunk to the second deck when I reached a lifeboat. I saved a baby in arms, and we had to sing for our lives at such a perilous time. The sailors were singing ‘’Pull for the shore, sailors’’ and rowing, half dressed in frozen garments.

The conduct of all the passengers was really wonderful. ‘’Babies and ladies first,’’ was the order. I think there were only sixteen boats. We were fortunate to have calm seas and a good nerve.

We could not any of us realize the peril until we were safe on this boat. Then the pathetic scenes occurred. Women were looking for their husbands and mothers for their babies. The band was playing until the last.

I cannot write any more just now, but please don’t worry. I will try and get along the best I can. Trusting you are getting over the shock. From your loving daughter,


Edwina MacKenzie, Titanic survivor
In case you can’t read the handwriting, Edwina was born in England in 1884. She saved a baby named Asaad Thomas.

In the Words of a Survivor

This was only the first of six transatlantic crossings for Edwina Troutt MacKenzie. Born in 1884, she lived to be 100 years old. At the time of the following interview, she was the eldest remaining survivor of the sinking of the Titanic.

MacKenzie led a very full life. She was a Harvey Girl — a railroad-stop restaurant waitress. She lived in Hermosa Beach, and every time Hollywood made a Titanic movie she’d receive an invitation to the premiere.

A Second Class passenger, she was supposed to sail aboard Titanic’s sistership Olympic, but because the coal miners were out on strike, there was only enough coal for one ship. Thus she ended up on the Titanic.

Another bit of Titanic trivia: No marine engineers survived the sinking of the Titanic. Among other things, the engineers kept the lights on and the radio sending “Come Quick Disaster.”


  1. bob huntsman 2 years ago

    “CQD”, the old distress signal is merely a combination of “seek you” (general call) with the “D” added to denote distress. It was changed to “SOS” because that particular “tattoo” or rhythm is more easily heard over the noise on the radio bands.

    • Brenda Alexander 2 years ago

      Very interesting, I always wondered what “CQD” stood for and thank you also for your explanation for my other curiosity that being why the call-change to “SOS” i.e. the rhythm being more easily heard (or distinguishable / set apart) over the other noise heard on the radio bands…fortunately it was this SOS call wasn’t it that the wireless operator, Harold Cottam, on the Carpathia, heard and answered that tragic night…very much obliged!

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